Pelicans seek some home cooking against Lakers
NEW ORLEANS — The last time the Pelicans lost a home game they were playing the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now two and a half weeks later, those teams meet again in the Smoothie King Center where New Orleans (6-12) has won four straight games and will try to bounce back after consecutive road losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks.
Los Angeles (9-9), which bounced back from back-to-back losses to the Golden State Warriors to beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-95 at home on Sunday, had an easy time in a 126-99 victory at New Orleans on Nov. 12
Before the two-game road trip, New Orleans had won four straight. It had a 68-62 lead early in the fourth quarter before the NBA-worst Mavericks went on a 27-12 run despite playing without All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki.
“We just need to go back to what we did in that winning streak — sharing the ball and having movement,” Pelicans rookie guard Buddy Hield told the team's official website. “Everybody was having fun. We need to get that back flowing. The league now is like you lose two in a row, you need to get back to winning. It's tough to get a win in this league.”
Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was tight-lipped after the loss. In his post-game news conference he had a simple explanation for the outcome, saying six different times, nearly verbatim, “they outplayed us and they deserved to win” before ending the brief session.
The loss to the Lakers dropped the Pelicans to 0-5 at home, but they haven't lost there since. Los Angeles led 63-62 in the third quarter when New Orleans forward Anthony Davis, the NBA's leading scorer, went to the locker room to have a stiff lower back treated. In his absence, the Lakers went on a 14-0 run.
Los Angeles showed off its depth in that game as the bench scored 73 points. The Lakers bench was strong again Sunday, outscoring the Hawks bench 65-24 and turning the game around by turning a 32-21 deficit after one quarter into a 56-48 halftime lead.
“The energy that the second unit brought on the defensive end in the second quarter changed the outcome of that game,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Times. “It's what we have been preaching all year, but it was really the first time that we saw all five guys on the court talking defensively.”
The Lakers depth has been tested because of the absence of two starters. Point guard D'Angelo Russell is sidelined because of a left knee injury and power forward Julius Randle has missed the last three games because of a hip injury. Russell is expected to miss at least another week, but Randle traveled with the team in hopes of playing at some point during a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday.
Thomas Robinson, who is with his sixth team since being drafted No. 5 overall in 2012, made his first start of the season in Randle's place against Atlanta. He had nine points and eight rebounds in 15-plus minutes.
“What I didn't do earlier in my career is take baby steps,” Robinson told the Lakers' official website. “I just wanted it all at one time. This is what I'm doing now. It's a process and I'll keep growing, keep growing. I'm still young (25), so I have plenty left.”